I was still clutching my life to my chest, cowering by the door and trying to stop and think clearly, when Janet called Brother Jeremiah.
“Hello? Hello? Brother Jeremiah, it is me, Janet… Francesca. The mirror has broke o!” she said. Then: “It is not me. It is one of them. She broke it!”
She was distraught and altogether not together. I was the ‘one of them,’ but I didn’t mind. The way I saw it, Brother Jeremiah was the one person who could help. I wanted to take the phone from her and talk to him myself but I couldn’t move away from the door.
“No… No… She did not do it on purpose… She look at it and she shout… I don’t know what she see… No… Yes…No. She is here… You want to talk to her?”
She handed me her phone, and at the same time, a dirty look. I, with trembling fingers, took it, and still unsure, put it to my ear.
“Hello my sister,” came a low drawn out voice over the line, “What is your name?”
“Sister Amaka, why did you break the mirror?”
“I dropped it. I didn’t mean to.”
“You look inside?”
“What did you see?”
“I’m not sure. I… I’m not sure.”
“My sister, please think carefully. Did you see anything in the mirror or you just broke it to offend your friend?”
“No! I saw something!”
“What did you see?”
“I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”
“Is the mirror still there?”
“You pack it away?”
“No. No, I didn’t touch it.”
“Please, my sister, if you know you did not broke it to annoyed your friend, help me to look inside it again and tell me what you see.”
“Just look inside the glass and tell me what you see.”
He wasn’t helping me; he wanted to kill me!
I flung Janet’s phone at her and she caught it into her belly. Thank God - that would have been the second of her property I would have destroyed that day.
Somehow, talking to Brother Jeremiah had calmed me down, but why?
My ability to think was still beclouded, but slowly, like sleep clearing from one’s eyes, I was gradually finding it possible to focus.
Why did he want to know what I saw in the mirror? Isn’t he the one that made the mirror? Then it hit me. He didn’t believe I saw anything in it. He didn’t believe me because he knew there was nothing to see. It was snake oil, sort of; a scam, a fraud, a mirror and nothing more. It was a dupe meant for Janet, and she had been totally mugunified by it. But what did I see?
With Janet busy trying to call Brother Jeremiah again, I slowly walked to the broken pieces of glass on the floor. I looked for the largest piece and picked it up with the hesitant fear of one handling a dead snake, but a snake nonetheless.
I held the piece of mirror up to my face and held my breath to look into it. I sat on the mattress where I’d sat before and I took another look. I was confused.
Janet had Brother Jeremiah on the phone.
“Look, Amaka, me I don’t know what is happening to you o! Brother Jerry said I should bring you so he can do prayers for you. You too, why did you look at the mirror? Did I ask you to look at it? Amaka? Amaka?”
I could hear her but my brain had decided that a more urgent task was at hand. I was busy trying to make sense of what I’d seen in the mirror. I was turning it here and there, holding it up and down trying to recreate the exact position I was in the first time I held it. There had to be an explanation.
“Amaka? Eh! Amaka? Me I don’t know this one that you’re doing o! Amaka? Amaka? Amaka!”
I remembered holding the mirror out to her and sneaking a peep. I tried to do exactly what I did before.
“Amaka? Amaka, talk to me nau. Amaka?”
Then, still holding the mirror in my outstretched hand, I turned my head to look at the wall behind, without shifting my body too much.
I adjusted the mirror, looked into it again, and burst out laughing. Uncontrollably. That kind of laughter that you can’t stop; that bends your belly and waters your eyes and makes you start to choke.
Janet watched silently for a few seconds, then, as if she’d heard a starting gun go off, she jumped in a spot, swung round and bolted out of the room faster than you can say Usain Bolt.
Later that night, about nine or ten, with all the girls present and a few more, Janet called Mama’s phone.
“Janet? Wey you dey?”
“I travel. How everybody?”
“You travel? Why you no tell anyone say you dey travel?”
“My Papa call me say make I come. You dey house?”
“Yes o, I dey house o.”
“You dey house? Who dey house with you?”
“We plenty for here. When you dey come back?”
“When I’m coming back?”
“I never know. So, everybody dey house?”
“Yes. We all dey here.”
“Ah! Amaka! She don craze o! She don run commot ! They see her for C.M.S. She dey there dey disturb Okada people say she want to drive Okada! We wan go catch her now. You for come with us o, as you be her friend too. Janet?...Janet?...Janet, you still dey there?”
But Janet was no longer on the phone. Mama tried to call her back.
“Winch! She don off her phone!”
We all burst out laughing.
All the girls were in the room, even girls from the next room. A little boy from the compound was on his knees by the door; his hands were held over his head and dried tears had formed a track down his cheeks. Janet’s things from her box were all over the floor.
Normally I’d have objected when after telling them the mirror story Kike said we should go through Janet’s box to see what else she was hiding, but I also wanted to know what she had in there. So far we had found a vibrator with a broken cable, a Gideon Bible, a half empty bottle of Olive oil and an assortment of SIM cards, but no more magic mirrors or other enchanted everyday objects (not that we’d known what one looked like).
As we picked through her things I couldn’t help wondering what my other roommates had in their boxes. Kike, who was leading the inquisition, was thinking the same.
“Oya, everybody should open their bags now!” she said.
“Lai, lai! No one dey search my bag!” she said. “Abeg, abeg, abeg. What for? Amaka, me and you, we have talk.”
“We have talk?” I asked her. The only girl in the room that I could trust with my life, but right there and then, I looked at her with eyes tainted with suspicion. “Oya, talk nau.”
“It is not talk for everybody. Make we go outside.”
“No o!” Kike said, jumping up from a chair. “We must search your box first.”
She squared up to Mama and I feared for her should Mama with her hefty frame take up the challenge.
“Why is it my own box that you want to search? Open your own first nau.”
“I will open it. Why don’t you want us to open your own?”
“You dey craze. Oya, that is my box. If anyone one of you get liver, make you open am. Amaka, let’s go.”
It was Mama, after all; shame on me for thinking bad of her. I got up and followed her, but not before warning that no one should touch my bag. I did it for her.
Clara, who was holding a cane fashioned out of a branch she had torn off a tree outside, asked about the boy knelling down.
“What of this boy?”
I turned to look at the boy. He’s eyes pleaded and fresh tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Aunty, please, I won’t do it again,” he promised for the umpteenth time.
Clara swung the cane at him and he let out a yell, even though he had acrobatically dodged the lash. She followed up with a slap which registered right across his face.
“So, that is how you have been peeping all of us in this compound?” she said, “Ashewo! You will stay here till your mother comes for you.”
The threat of reporting him to his mother made him forget he had been warned not to get off his knees. He threw himself prostrate on the floor and begged profusely.
I had no pity for him. It was his face that I’d seen in the mirror. He had used a broom stick to part the curtain from outside and was feasting his adolescent eyes on near naked women. Only God knows how long he’d been doing it and what he’d seen. I could forgive him his voyeurism, but he had got me so close to madness that no punishment was enough. I already knew what I was going to do to him. I was going to take him from door to door telling everybody how he had been spying on them from their windows, then I would let him go to live in fear of who would be first to report him to his mother. Foolish boy!
Outside, Mama held my arm and took me far from the BQ.
“Eh hen, Amaka, what do they call twins in your language?”
I’d long given up trying to guess where Mama was going with anything. It was the same Mama who had once asked me if I knew how to apply for Visa, only for her to give me the gist of one girl that said that her boyfriend used the internet to apply for a Visa for her, in a Nollywood home video. With Mama, there’s just no point guessing.
I simply told her what she asked for and waited for the explanation that was sure to come in her own time.
“Eh hen. Is that one Taiwo or Kehinde?”
“No. That’s twins. Taiye is Agiliga and Kehinde is Onyisi”
“And they can use them for both of them for boys and girls?”
“Ok. You remember Uncle China? He’s not really my uncle.”
No shit, I wanted to say.
“The man has been disturbing that he wants twins,” she said.
She then explained how she frequently fixes him up with all sorts of desires of his: very young girls, left handed girls, girls with low-cuts, virgins.
At virgins I stopped her. I wanted to know how she succeeded in getting a virgin for him.
“The girl is not really a virgin jor. You know nau. How will he know? He gave me forty thousand for that one and gave the girl fifty thousand. I collected twenty five from her.”
That Mama managed to keep all this from me was surprising, to say the least. Maybe her loudness and razzness had stopped me from seeing beyond my own preconceptions of her.
“That time we went to his house, I told him you are twins. That’s why he asked for your number.”
“You told him I’m a twin?”
“Yes. He has been disturbing me for long that he wants twins, so I told him you are twins and that your other twin is in Ekpoma.”
My mouth was ajar as I realised what she was proposing.
“Stop shouting jor. He said he would give me hundred thousand if I can find him twins.”
“Oh! Amaka, don’t fall my hand o.”
“How will he know that you’re not twins? What did you say they call twins again?”
“Agiliga and Onyisi.”
“That Agili one is too strong. We would say you are Onyishi.”
“Onyisi,” I corrected her.
“So, what if he says he wants the two of us at the same time?”
I was surprised that I was even encouraging her by asking.
“Amaka baby, it is me nau. I already told him you are not that type of girl. I said you and your twins are decent girls so he should even forget about sleeping with two of you together. In fact ehn, I told him that if I succeed to bring you, he should not let both of you know that he has met the other one.”
“So, you want me to go and see him and pretend to be a twin?”
“Onyisi. And then after, I will go again and pretend to be my twin?”
“And he’s giving you a hundred thousand for this?”
She hadn’t thought of that.
“And what’s in it for me?” I asked.
She called Uncle China’s number, explained to the person who answered the call how she was his niece and soon the phone was handed to her uncle who was not really her uncle. I waited and listened.
“Uncle, the girl is proving difficult o! But I have spoken to her other and she is coming from Ekpoma next week. How much should I say you will give her?.... Fifty thousand? No o! Uncle, make it hundread….Good!...My own money is for one o! You will pay again for the other one o!...Trust me nau, she will also come. Just don’t tell her you know her sister.”
“And why does he want to sleep with twins?” I asked her, fearing the answer as I did.
“You know nau.”
“But the thing cannot catch you nau. You are not a real twins, abi?”
I calculated: One hundred thousand each time I saw him as a different twin. If only he wanted triplets.